Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ebert Thoughts ‘12—Big Fan (2009) ***½

R, 88 min.
Director/Writer: Robert D. Siegel
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Jonathan Hamm, Matt Servito, Michael Rapaport

Robert Siegel’s “Big Fan” is an incredible character study on just what it means to be a fan and care very little about anything else. Plenty of people are fanatics over professional sports teams. It takes all kinds. Lawyers, stockbrokers, blue-collar workers, teachers, artists, anyone can be a fan. I’m crazy over the Big Blue myself, but that’s not the reason I like this movie so much. I suppose a Dallas Cowboys fan might not appreciate the “Dallas Sucks” t-shirt Patton Oswalt wears in one scene, however.

Most people have other passions, though. There are expectations that most people have out of life. This notion of living for more than just yourself prevails as a standard for good human nature. You’re supposed to have a family, and a job that promises something more in the future. Sports fanaticism, however, is often looked on as something of a selfish endeavor. I guess because it often involves neglecting family and chores for an afternoon or evening to give all of your spirit to something that really has nothing to do with you. “Big Fan” realizes it does have a lot to do with the fans, and the commitment of the fan isn’t something selfish. In this movie’s case its almost self sacrificial.

I won’t spend time going over the plot of the film, although it presents a very unique situation in which this particular fan finds himself. There are two scenes, however, that I think illustrate this film’s point. One involves the heroes’ mother, with whom he still lives. She’s arguing with him about how he hasn’t done anything with his life. She lists off all these accomplishments, like a wife and kids and a good job. He simply argues back “I don’t want any of those.” Really, his argument is bulletproof. There’s no reason he should want those things. He wants to be a New York Football Giants fan and that’s it. He has a job that provides his needs. He is happy. His unhappiness is something everyone projects onto him.  Certainly he isn’t always happy. That’s usually because people are expecting him to be happy about something he doesn’t want. He experiences pure joy and pure pain when watching his Giants though.

The ending of the film also illustrates this point. Without revealing what he does, I will say his actions are never malicious. It’s all in good sport. Once again the audience and his victim assume a much darker nature to his actions, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the game for our hero. The ending of this film is one of the more perfect film endings I’ve come across. It makes me wonder how this guy would view the recent scandal over the revelation that the New Orleans Saints players were coached to hurt their opponents. This would enrage the Oswalt character in this movie because it is so opposed to his outlook about how “his” game should work.

Controversies aside, I know he would’ve been elated about this year’s Super Bowl. World Champion New York Giants once again. All is right with the world.

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